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Pub Lovers Guide to Round 3
It's every footy fan's nightmare - your team just lost on the weekend, and everyone is giving it to you about how rubbish you are. What you need is a solid excuse. What we've done is collected the best excuses for each losing team's performance, and chucked them into this easy guide.
And even if you're not a footy fan, this is the column for you. Maybe, just maybe, you'll pick up enough about the games to hold your own in casual pub conversation.
The difference in this game was the intensity. The Rabbitohs are used to bashing teams out of the game with their huge forward pack, providing space for the backs to run riot. This week however, the Tigers brought the physicality to the Rabbitohs. Not just in defence, but off the ball as well. The Tigers took no backwards steps in this game, and it through the Rabbitohs off.
Of course, the big excuse for the Rabbitohs happened in the first few minutes of the game. Greg Inglis got hit in the head while catching for a bomb, and was knocked out. He left the field, and the Rabbitohs lost their way after that. You know how it is - when you lose the best player in the world… yada yada I'll let you fill in the rest.
The biggest improvement for the Rabbitohs would be by learning to not lose their cool when things don't go their way. As soon as the Rabbitohs started getting penalised, they got frustrated and made silly mistakes.
For the Tigers, the Brooks/Tedesco combination led the way. In many ways they remind me of an early Cooper Cronk/Billy Slater relationship. Neither player has to look to know where the other is, and they just work together. The Tigers should do everything they can to keep this pair together.
The difference in this game was probably the new stoppage rules within the last 5 minutes. It was a great idea from the NRL to introduce this rule change, as it has caused epic finishes in a stack of games already this season.
The Broncos could be excused for losing this game, because their entire week was fuelled on emotion surrounding Yow Yeh's retirement. Games based on emotion usually go one of two ways, either it plays on the players' minds, and they struggle, or they come out and blitz it. This week was the former. Plus, they were due a loss.
Can't really fault the Broncos performance too much this week - they were in this game up to their eyeballs. They just need to keep doing what they're doing, as it obviously worked in the first two rounds, and almost worked in Round 3.
The key performance out of this game was Ben Hunt. He was involved in practically everything his team did this week, setting up tries and line breaks and even scoring a try himself.
As much as Dragons fans will not like me saying this, Jamie Soward is a genius in attack. Fair enough, his defense is rocky at times, but he more than makes up for it with his attacking power. And he was the difference in this game - his kicking and passing game set his team up, and allowed them to get over the top of the Bulldogs.
There are a multitude of excuses for the Bulldogs, but the two main ones are a short turnaround after Round 2, and the fact that Tony Williams doesn't realise exactly how big he is. On top of that it was a sticky, humid day, which nobody likes playing in, least of all the big Bulldogs forwards.
There are two main areas of performance that need addressing this week. The first would be the slow start that the team had - it's difficult to get your head into the game if you've been blown away in the first 20 minutes, and it's even tougher if you've let the opposition get out to a lead. Secondly, the Bulldogs seem insistant on defending inside the outside men. Yes, it helps with your defense in the middle, but it also gifts points to the opposition wingers down the outside.
Key performance for this game is a no brainer. Soward, for reasons already stated.
St George Illawarra Dragons defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
The St George Illawarra Dragons had it all over the Sharks in one area - out wide. Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale had it all over Sosaia Feki and Jonathan Wright, in speed, power, athleticism and positioning. When Dugan comes back the Dragons have a formidable back three.
The major excuse for the Sharks is the same as it has been for the past few weeks: Injuries. The Sharks still have a lot of talent sitting on the sideline, and while it's unfortunate, they still need to find a way to win without them. They also need to lessen their reliance on Todd Carney, he was just back injury, and the Sharks need to not burden him with all their hopes and dreams too soon.
As for improvements next week, both sides need to learn to play the full 80, as the game got scrappy at the end. The Sharks will improve as players come back from injury, and once their captain Paul Gallen is back to lead by example.
Brett Morris was the key performer this week, scoring a double and looking like pure class in everything he did.
The difference in this game was the ability of the Warriors to take advantage of their opportunities. There wasn't a lot separating the two teams, but the Warriors jumped on every half chance, and often converted it into points, while for the Cowboys they could not boast the same.
From the Cowboys point of view, the game just wasn't long enough. They Cowboys were coming home with a wet sail, and with another five minutes they would probably have won.
This week the Cowboys will be talking about reducing the unforced errors at inopportune times. There were a handful of occasions where the Warriors were gifted field position and possession, due to a silly mistake or fumble from the Cowboys. The Cowboys will also be wanting to work on their defense, as they were caught lacking on a few occasions.
Nathan Friend was the key performer in this game - his service was crisp out of dummy half, and he tackled all day, making 45 tackles and only missing 2.
Manly Sea Eagles defeated Parramatta Eels
The difference in this one was that the referees decided to listen to what Manly said at the end of the game. Daly Cherry-Evans stayed down after a nothing hit, and Jamie Lyon did his usual thing where he complains to the referee. All of a sudden the Sea Eagles get the penalty, kick down field and score a try to win the game.
It's pretty obvious that the Eels' biggest excuse this week was some of the mystifying referee decisions. The Eels were the better team for most of the game, completely exposing the Sea Eagles out wide, especially through Semi Radradra, who finished with about 11 tackle busts.
The Eels won't be too unhappy with their performance this week, although Paulo will be spending some time practicing his goalkicking at training. If he had kicked a couple more of his goals, they'd have won the game - as he only converted 1 from 4.
The key performance in this clash was obviously Semi Radradra. It's an interesting choice because he wasn't on the winning side, but he was a powerhouse, with 11 tackle breaks, 3 tries and 3 linebreaks. The Sea Eagles had no answer to him in defense, and he pretty much did whatever he liked for much of the match. Except win.
The Titans showed some resolute defence on their own line, which the Raiders had difficulty cracking. It wasn't like the Raiders didn't try, they threw everything they had at the Titans line, but just couldn't come up with as many points as they'd have liked.
The loss of Edrick Lee upset the balance of the Raiders though, and this, coupled with a late ruling out of Sezer meant that the team dynamic was entirely different to what they were expecting. The resultant reshuffle was just too much for the Raiders to cope with.
The Raiders will want to work on their markers this week at training. The Titans caught them napping a couple of times, scoring a couple of tries purely through lazy marker defence.
For the third week in a row, the key performance was Albert Kelly. Kelly has been the almost sole catalyst for attacking plays from his team all season, and this week was no different, darting around the ruck and putting his players into gaps.
Discipline absolutely killed the Knights. The Knights were penalised three times in as many minutes at the start of the game, and it didn't really get any better. Captain Kurt Gidley was penalised a couple of times for silly things, and the Knights as a whole were ill-disciplined. Both Gidley and Michael Dobson were penalised for hands on faces in the tackle.
Obviously seeing something as shocking as McKinnon's injury had to play on the minds of his teammates. McKinnon was on the ground after a dangerous throw, and in horrible distress, with his team mates standing around terrified. The Knights did as well as they could after that, under the circumstances.
The Knights have two main areas that Coach Wayne Bennet will be focusing on. The first is the right hand side defence, where Gagai and Uate are being torn apart by opposition attack. Mullen will return from injury at some point and strengthen that side's defence, but until then something needs to be done. The Knights will also talk about their discipline - it's difficult to win games when you're giving away penalties willy-nilly.
The key performance in this game goes to Cooper Cronk, ably supported by Billy Slater. The main issue for opposition defences is that Cronk and Slater know each other's games inside and out. A number of times Cronk doesn't even need to look to know Slater is there. On top of that, even if Slater isn't getting the ball, his presence alone is enough to worry the defense into second guessing themselves.